Having just graduated with First Class Honours after spending four wonderful years studying law at Durham University reading for the LL.B. (with European Legal Studies) I would encourage all prospective applicants looking to read for a law degree to seriously consider Durham University for a whole host of reasons.Sarah Bousfield (LL.B, 2011)
The quality of teaching at the Durham University Law School is truly outstanding. Principally, this is due to the fact that students are taught by world class academics: experts within their fields and frequently cited by Appellate courts and published in highly regarded journals and publications the world over. The staff are, without exception, friendly, approachable, helpful and quickly become familiarised with students so that the law school is always an inviting and enjoyable place to study.
Moreover, the course structure is well balanced: students not only attend lectures in large groups but are also called upon to prepare for, and participate in, small group tutorials with lecturers and around 8 other students as well as having the opportunity in more advanced modules to study exclusively in small seminar groups of around 15 students. This mixture between information- giving sessions; self study and reflection upon one's own thoughts and opinions; and opportunities to debate those views with both peers and professors is what makes the course so exhilarating and yet provides enough support so that students are not overwhelmed.
Compulsory courses for a Qualifying Law Degree are always taught in an interesting manner, often touching upon the Module Leaders' research interests as well as covering the basic material and the range of choices for optional modules is fantastic. Students are provided an opportunity to really get to grips with the areas of law that they themselves find interesting- from various domestic law modules such as Media Law or Law and Medicine; to European Law courses such as EC Internal Market Law or International Law modules on Public International Law, Human Rights or Humanitarian law... the only problem is choosing your favourites!
The quality of resources available to law students is also key to ensuring their success and at Durham University the combination of both the centralised law library and college libraries means that there is always a surplus of core textbooks as well as advanced texts for more individualistic study projects such as the Undergraduate Dissertation as well as quiet places to revise during the exam period. There are also lots of computers and access to a plethora of electronic journals and online databases too.
I was also lucky enough to take advantage of the European Legal Studies scheme offered at Durham University (now called the Year Abroad Scheme) and spent my 3rd year studying Law in French at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. This experience was so exciting that no testimonial can ever do it justice, but, suffice to say that studying law in a foreign language and an entirely different cultural environment was a real challenge, but one that made me laugh every single day, left me with life- long friends scattered all over the world, radically improved my skiing abilities and totally changed my outlook on life!
Extra Curricular Legal Opportunities
I have also become involved with the law school on an extra- curricular basis by both working during the summer as a paid research intern for two professors on new publications and volunteering on the IPSEA Advice Line Pro Bono Service run out of the law school, offering free and independent legal advice to parents who have children with Special Educational Needs. Further, I have also had the chance to participate in Interscholastic Mooting: both a module choice and an opportunity to audition for acceptance onto the University Mooting team for the Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition. After being admitted onto the team, this experience made the final year of study at Durham really refreshing. All students dedicated a lot of time to preparing for the competition and it paid off: we won the UK National Rounds held at Grey's Inn and beating traditional powerhouses such as Oxford, KCL, UCL and postgraduate students studying the BPTC and members of Inner Temple and Kaplan law school and were rewarded with university funding for a trip to the International World Finals held in Washington D.C. where we placed 19th overall, went sightseeing all over the city and ate our own weight in delicious food!
These fantastic opportunities are but two offered by the law school to really get involved with some legally related activities that are fun, great for meeting new people and making changes to the lives of others.
Durham's law school has a solid reputation of ensuring that its graduates continue on to find prestigious work experience opportunities, internships, and ultimately employment. Many law students go on to work for world renowned solicitor's firms, go on to the English Bar or further study. I have personally secured places on the Cambridge LL.M. and Oxford B.C.L. for further study in 2011; and been awarded a Lord Denning scholarship with Lincolns' Inn to cover my course costs of undertaking the BPTC in 2012. These opportunities have all arisen due to the encouragement and support of my Professors and the various schemes run by the Faculty and Law Society alike which ensure that students consider what they would like to do after leaving Durham. These include Open Days to major solicitor firms and chambers; scholarships, sponsorships and internships offered to the highest performing students in certain modules; and social events such as Dining in nights with various Inns of courts and sponsored drinks' parties throughout the academic year.
About the city
That is not to say that law students need be entirely defined by their course during their time at Durham: the city of Durham itself is not only ancient and charming (and with a fabulous river to learn to row on!) but offers lots of wonderful restaurants and cafe's and a great student nightlife with college bar crawls, sporting fixtures, societies and socials and is only a short train shuttle away from Newcastle.